As an overseas worker, I see a lot of friends come and go. I’ve written about the “rootlessness” of many of our friends, that naturally comes with settling and resettling. Transition is a beast.
Several of those closest to me are leaving in the next month or two. These people are my family, the ones I do holidays with. They are the couple we go on double dates with, spur of the moment. They are the ones who pop in and stay for a night, who feel at home sitting on my couch, or helping me with whatever house project I’m working on.
The conversations I’ve been immersed in lately revolve around transition, and leaving, and re-entry and grief. For people who are getting to go back “home” where conveniences and yummy food and law-abiding drivers abound, I am sensing very little excitement.
This is a letter for all those who get to be on the welcoming side of those in transition. Maybe you want to help, but don’t know how. You want to say something, but aren’t sure what.
I have included Maslow’s Basic Hierarchy of Needs in this letter, for those of you interested in the psychology of how we were created. When people are uprooted from their home, and what they know to be familiar, these needs become a little stronger, a little more real.
5 Easy Ways to Help Those in Transition
1. Help them with housing, long before they need to come “home”
People in transition need a place to stay. Many people are able to stay with parents, but put yourself in those shoes and ask yourself how long that would work for your family. Help them locate mission houses that are available in the area. If no mission houses area available, maybe you know of someone with a rent house that’s unoccupied. We have been blessed beyond measure by people who offered their rent house to us free of charge during our time of need.
If they are permanently relocating, chances are that the true desire of their heart is to settle into their OWN home- not another temporary place to unpack their bags, but into a space they can call home. See if they need help finding a house, or helping them move in.
2. Transition is EXPENSIVE
Every move, whether permanent or temporary, costs money. Stocking a pantry has been one of the biggest immediate expenses for us. Help them out by filling their pantry with the basics (and some fun stuff!! They have missed the fun stuff), things they need to be move-in ready. Go the extra mile by asking them what kind of things they LIKE to have in their pantry. Are they pasta-lovers? Health nuts? Sure, eating out is a convenient option in the good ‘ole USA, but that gets costly. Unless you want to pay for their meal, which is very much appreciated.
If they are moving into a permanent house, they might be needing to furnish the house. While every overseas worker I have ever known has been extremely grateful for donated items, they all desire a house that feels like home- with kitchen items that work, plates that kind of match, furniture that suits their individual God-given taste… you get the idea. Workers desire a homey home as much as you. See what their needs are. Maybe a gift card or ideas on where to get some great deals would be a way you could really help.
3. Make sure they have transportation.
Growing up, we had friends who ran a car dealership who always helped us out with a car for our times home. I can’t even tell you how important it is for workers’ to have a vehicle that runs well. Maybe you can lend them an extra car until they are able to buy one of their own. A car that has good gas mileage is a bonus- remember, they don’t have a lot of extra money as they are probably transitioning to a new job.
4. They need community.
This one is often overlooked, but so extremely important. You can have all your basic needs met, and even a new routine starting to form as you navigate back into the American way of life, but it can be one of the loneliest times ever.
Belonging to a community is the next step in feeling whole. Many times, workers need to connect to others with international experience, or people who understand transition. Remember, they have just said goodbye to all of their friends who had the same life as them, who understood them.
Invite them to parties, community groups, your church, to Superbowl parties. Invite them over for dinner, or out with friends to a picnic at the lake.
If they have kids, help them plug into youth groups, or activities to help them find their “place”. Invite them to birthday parties. See if you can get scholarships to send their kids to summer camp, or other places where deep friendships are formed.
Chances are, workers returning “home” and in transition aren’t looking to meet a million new people. They are looking for a few invested friends who want to spend time with them, and hear their heart, and help them make a new home. Ask yourself if you can be that person.
5. Finally, understand that overseas workers are just normal people.
They aren’t homeless or poor because of bad financial decisions. They have roots in your country, speak your language and care about things like having a nice home, educating their kids well, plugging into the community and finding some great friends.
Please understand that their choice to leave the familiarity of their passport country and their family to move overseas was made out of intense care to help others in need and obedience to God. Those things haven’t changed. Their identity has not been stripped away, although they may feel that way. They have some pretty cool life experiences that have made them extremely special. Get to know them. You will be glad you did.
The original hierarchy of needs five-stage model includes:
1. Biological and Physiological needs – air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep.
2. Safety needs – protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, freedom from fear.
3. Love and belongingness needs – friendship, intimacy, affection and love, – from work group, family, friends, romantic relationships.
4. Esteem needs – achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, self-respect, respect from others.
5. Self-Actualization needs – realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.
(photo courtesy of ruach.wordpress.com)